Winter will soon be well and truly upon us, and representing that change of season, EA Sports have teamed up with independent football art house Fokohaela to create ‘Deep Freeze’ – the latest kit to drop in FIFA 22 Ultimate Team and VOLTA FOOTBALL.

EA Sports are constantly updating FIFA 22 to keep it feeling fresh and relevant as the season progresses. The latest upgrade comes in the form of ‘Deep Freeze’, taking the game to wintry depths, challenging players in VOLTA FOOTBALL to play their best in new conditions like an iced mountain pitch up in the clouds. Deep Freeze marks the second seasonal update to the game and it arrives with a new visual look that will spread out across the Ultimate Team and VOLTA FOOTBALL modes in the form of kit, clothing and stadium dressings, including Tifos. For the kit and clothing, EA Sports turned to Denmark-based design house Fokohaela, and we touched base with its creator, Jason Lee, to find out more about the key creative influences and design processes behind the update.

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Firstly, how does a project like this come about?  

I had worked on another FUT project with EA SPORTS from a few years back, also based on a winter theme.  Having a great relationship with them, I was pitched the idea for FUT22.

What drew you to the project?

First and foremost, the professionalism of EA SPORTS.  EA consistently brings high quality content to the market, pushing the boundaries of gaming, steered by a seasoned team. Secondly, in the digital realm, much more is possible than the real world. It's blue sky thinking put to the canvas. Couple that with creative license and what's a designer not to like?

From start to finish, how long does a project like this take?

Generally, the designing itself does not take very long, but because you're dealing with such a complex project with many puzzle pieces of which design is one part, it will take several months for all the components to align. In this case, Deep Freeze from design brief to launch was seven months.

There isn't a significant difference in the process between designing a digital and physical kit besides the fact that the designer does not have to take sizing into consideration(XS-XXL).  It makes the process that much faster and you're able to see the "samples" on a 3D model.

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How does designing something that will appear virtually differ to designing something for the real world? 

Essentially, the world is your oyster.  Whatever limitations you may confront in the real world are wiped away in digital, especially because cost is not a factor or there aren't the FIFA or UEFA regulations to adhere to. 

The only specific considerations would be making sure EA SPORTS branding is in its standard positions.

Tell us about the specific design inspiration behind Deep Freeze…

As it is a winter collection, I was given the brief of black ice as the starting point. Deep Freeze is bringing elements of the natural world, of the organic formations from ice cracks, and merging them with elements from the human made world as in a deep freezer and/or refrigerator. 

For the home kit I took the pattern of ice and abstracted it from the literal into an angular allover pattern of shards of ice on a black background for a geometric representation of the cracking and manifested as black ice.

The away kit then incorporates the geometric pattern in a contrast white winter wonderland, while the goalkeeper kit is inspired by the graphically expressive kits of the 90s, with an allover pattern made up of the LCD readouts on refrigerators and freezers. That kit plays up the LCD graphics, as there's a tendency for the Keeper kits to be more expressive. And because the Keeper kits need to be clearly differentiated from the outfield kits, the red/orange base colour is used as a contrast of fire to ice. All three kits have an LCD readout in place of a traditional badge, as if the player is wearing an IoT garment.

How many attempts did it take before you were satisfied with the final design? 

We were able to nail the overall direction with the first go and make subtle tweaks along the way.  The Deep Freeze aesthetic was applied to the Volta collection as well, and so there's a synergy between the two collections. 

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How much are you looking forward to seeing the finished product in the game? 

I'm excited to see the stadium banners and branding from VOLTA as much as I am looking forward to seeing the FUT22 Deep Freeze kits on the pitch. And maybe most excited to see the keeper kits, as typically they aren't given as much attention. I wanted to make sure we did goalkeepers justice.

The kits themselves look amazing and would definitely work in the real world. You've obviously designed kits for pro teams in the past, so what's the main difference with the end result?

Having worked at adidas and hummel previously, I've had the opportunity to design real world kits for clubs and federations, but with the Deep Freeze kits, we're able to reach a wider audience of fans regardless of club or rivalry, and that's just as fulfilling.

What would be your dream team to design for?

As a Gooner, definitely Arsenal. 

What inspires you specifically as a designer, and how do you go about translating that for a footballing audience?

Anything and everything that's having a cultural impact inspires me, whether it be the arts, technology, or politics. Zeitgeist.

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Deep Freeze is available in FIFA 22 now. Kits pictured above may vary slightly vs digital version.